Tri-Valley head start in Owatonna hosts monthly Literacy Event for year-round and migratory families

By KIM HYATT | Posted: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 6:00 pm

OWATONNA — Aracely Delgado read to her 2-year-old daughter Camila for more than 3,000 minutes in the month of October.

They were just one of the many families at the Tri-Valley Opportunity Council in Owatonna to help meet this month’s reading challenge of 23,000 minutes.

To celebrate and encourage even more reading, Tri-Valley held its third Literacy Event of the year where year-round and migratory families of students were invited for a night of games, food and raffles.

Center manager for the Owatonna Tri-Valley Isabel Mendoza said, “Families have been really receptive” to the challenge, and the school is letting students take home books to help exceed reading goals, most of which are given out at these events.

“It’s very popular with our families. We see our families really involved and they just really love to come in and what we love to do is to bring in the community,” Mendoza said. “It’s not only for the children, it’s for the family as well as adults.”

Delgado is taking advantage of resources available for parents at the literacy events as she looks to finish her GED through programs offered by the Owatonna Community Education, one of the handful of programs partnered with Tri-Valley.

She took classes for her GED when living in Texas, but now she wants her family to settle in Owatonna instead of migrating to Minnesota during the months of June through November. She wants to finish at the program offered at Roosevelt.

“It’s a great opportunity to meet members of the community and for them to see the resources that are here for them while they are in our community,” said Debbie McDermott-Johnson, director of community education at Roosevelt.

Many of the migrant parents whose children attend Tri-Valley during those months work in agriculture, primarily Lakeside Foods where they package peas and corn. The school serves about 28 year-round students and 50 in the migrant and seasonal head start and early head start programs.

There are 15 Tri-Valley head starts across the state, five of which are in the southern region — Rochester, Sleepy Eye, Winnebago, Elysian and Owatonna — with headquarters located in Crookston. The non-profit community action agency is celebrating its 50th year serving low-income and migratory children and their families.

At the event were various community organizations Tri-Valley has partnered with to provide resources for families. Mendoza said parents can “get ideas to do with their children at home,” like crafts or a bedtime routine that they can take home along with a toothbrush.

Beds for Kids and the Kiwanis Club were there as well as Edel Fernandez, multicultural adviser for Riverland Community College.

“Higher education is no longer just for high school graduates,” Fernandez said. “We’re always looking for opportunities to better serve our students of any age.”

Riverland was recently awarded $20,000 from the Otto Bremer Foundation to help start up a Parent Center at the Owatonna campus where scholarships can be available for the students juggling school, work and a family.

“For instance if you don’t have daycare and it’s finals week, we can probably pay for your daycare so you can have some time to study. Or if you need help purchasing books,” said Fernandez, adding that some of the money will be allocated for hosting breakfast for moms and dads to help build a network of parents in school.

Tri-Valley will hold its next monthly family night sometime late December.